New Delhi, Feb 11: In a verdict which could raise thousands of questions over doctors accountability, the Supreme Court has said that doctors cannot be harassed for compensation.
The bench comprising of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and H S Bedi said that it was necessary to safeguard medical practitioners, who perform their duties keeping the welfare of the patients as their utmost concern.
"It is our bounden duty and obligation of the civil society to ensure that the medical professionals are not unnecessarily harassed or humiliated so that they can perform their professional duties without fear and apprehension", Judge said.
He added that there has been instances where doctors have been unnecessarily harassed by patients or claimants to extract compensation.
"The medical practitioners at times also have to be saved from such a class of complainants who use criminal process as a tool for pressurizing the medical professionals/hospitals, particularly private hospitals or clinics, for extracting uncalled for compensation. Such malicious proceedings deserve to be discarded against the medical practitioners," Justice Bhandari said.
SC made the decision as it dismissed the Rs 45-lakh compensation claim made by Kusum Latha, stating that her husband R K Sharma, Senior Operations Manager in Indian Oil Corporation's Marketing Division, had died due to alleged medical negligence by the doctors of Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre.
In her petition Kusum said that her husband died of 'pyogenic meningitis' on Oct 11, 1990 after a surgery was performed on him to remove encapsulated malignant tumor in the left adrenal on the abdominal side, which required a complicated procedure.
She appealed to the National Consumer Disputes Redredssal Commission (NCDRC) for a compensation of Rs 45 lakh on the grounds that Sharma died because of negligence committed by the doctors.
The Commission discarded the plea after examining the records, following which she approached the apex court.
After going through the records and hearing the parties, the SC too dismissed her plea stating that she did not have enough evidence to prove medical negligence.
The apex court said that doctors who perform their duties with utmost sincerity and with the interest of the patients in mind must be protected.
"The interest and welfare of the patients have to be paramount for medical professionals. Doctors in complicated cases have to take a chance even if the rate of survival is low," the court said.
Asking medicals professionals to be accountable, the apex court said professionals should be protected from unnecessary harassment, so that they can perform their professional duties without fear.